I’m very pleased to be addressing this meeting in your parliament building, one of the most beautiful parliament buildings in the world, and one of the very first to be constructed for that purpose.
It’s not a very well known fact that the first ever building specifically constructed to house a parliament was in Dublin, in the mid 18th century. Unfortunmately it was abolished in 1801, and the building is now a bank; today’s Irish legislature meets in a former lecture theatre, in a house built as an aristocratic residence.
The city of my birth also has a rather pretentious parliament building on a hill on its eastern fringes. If you visit, you will see the founder of the statelet standing outside, making rude gestures to his enemies in the south.
Of course, one of the features of your parliament is that you no longer have a Senate, so you have a very beautiful chamber which unfortunately has no content. Oddly enough, the same is true in Northern Ireland, where the rather less attractive Senate chamber (actually about the size of the room we are meeting in, but with only 26 members – they must have fairly rattled around) is also empty since the reforms of the 1970s. In Dublin, interestingly, the old House of Lords chamber is the only room of the old Parliament which still has the original decorations.
Let me now extend the metaphor of beautifully designed superstructures with no actual content to the topic of our meeting today…